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Shifting the Kaleidoscope

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Educators’ Insights on Culture Shock, Identity and Pedagogy


Jon L. Smythe

This book examines culture shock and reverse culture shock as valuable learning experiences for educators working in increasingly culturally diverse environments. Although these phenomena are often cast as illnesses to be avoided, this study suggests that both types of shock can help educators develop greater self-understanding and intercultural awareness and will benefit their pedagogical practices as well. For this study, four returned Peace Corps volunteer educators who have taught at various grade levels, both abroad and in the United States, share thought-provoking stories of how their experiences shifted their identities and their approaches to teaching. A Post-structural hermeneutic framework is used to analyze each story in two separate «readings» as a way of disrupting the flow of each text so that other possible meanings may emerge. The metaphor of the kaleidoscope develops from the study as a way to imagine a curriculum in motion – one in which new and often surprising patterns are created by shifting, juxtaposing and refocusing the multiple lenses within. Shifting the Kaleidoscope should appeal to those readers who are interested in curriculum studies, multicultural education, intercultural awareness, narrative inquiry, post-structuralism, international studies, the Peace Corps and/or teaching English abroad.
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Interplay 5: Returning Home to Fantasyland



Returning Home to Fantasyland

“Don’t let me interfere with your pleasure in it,” she said, “but this whole place is false and rotten to the core.” Her voice came with a hiss of indignation. “They prostitute azaleas!”

Flannery O’Connor (1995) from The Partridge Festival

When it came time to leave Cameroon, I thought that I would be extremely sad. Strangely though, I wasn’t in the least bit sad. I was happy that I had come to Cameroon and happy to have met the people that I did. I had worked hard and I was satisfied that I had done a good job. I had made lasting friendships and I felt that I could do more for my friends, financially, in the U.S. than I ever could have in Cameroon. Besides, waiting for me on the other side were hamburgers, pizza, tacos, and, of course, my family and friends.

Wanting to take a long last look at Olawati, I walked to the outskirts of town where I could see everything stretched out before me. It seemed to gleam like pale gold in the afternoon sun. And then, it hit me. The first pang caught me off guard, the second made me nervous, and the third one meant that if I didn’t find someplace to have diarrhea soon, I would be washing out my dainties later that evening. Then I thought, “Oh, what’s the big deal?” I had seen thousands...

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